“Being part of the SOPs4RI project has been really useful to start to analyse what we are doing, how we can improve our processes internally and externally and if there is something that we are not doing at all”
Prior to engaging in the SOPs4RI pilot phase, we did not have a formal RIPP. However, several of the elements mentioned in the RIPP templates have been analysed and considered before. So we have not prepared, executed or monitored a RIPP itself but we have lots of the items that are considered in a RIPP in place. For example we already had different guidelines on the 6 main items to consider when promoting research integrity:
– Criteria and processes for assessing grant applications: we have guidelines and quick guides for all our reviewers, besides some specific tutorials with highlights and important information to avoid possible bias.
– Declaration of interests: all reviewers have the option to declare a conflict through the same evaluation platform along all the evaluation process. We analyse internally the conflict in order to accept it or maybe share with the reviewer the option to proceed with the evaluation as we do not consider that such a conflict if they are comfortable.
– Monitoring funded grants: all applicants and organization managers get the information of how the grant will be monitored on a kick off meeting before starting the project. Also, we have a “welcome pack” with all possible information related to it and really close contact between applicants and “la Caixa” Foundation project Managers. Open access policy is also shared and included in the grant agreement as are some other important aspects related to the monitoring.
– Dealing with internal breaches of research integrity: we have a Research integrity policy, included on the grant agreement, public on our website. This includes all the information related to deal and inform with breaches in RI related to the project funded.
– Expectations for Research Performing Organisations: all included in the “welcome pack” mentioned and explained at the kick-off meeting.
– Compliance with RI standards by applicants: we considered this to be the item with more room for improvement. We are not monitoring this right now, besides the open access publication. Although we have an external ethical committee that follows the projects as well, we could do more.
Being part of the SOPs4RI project has been really useful to start to analyse what we are doing, how we can improve our processes internally and externally and if there is something that we are not doing at all.
We think that we have most of it in place but we are aware that some items have room for improvement, some more than others. Designing and implementing a full RIPP will be really useful to detect this and see what should be done or changed. The guidance from the SOPs4RI tools will be beneficial in this regard. We are starting a deep analysis at the end of this year.
One of the challenges we encounter is that of striking a balance between trust and monitoring. I would say that it is easier to control for aspects of integrity in the assessment stage of the projects than in the monitoring stage. It is difficult and important to find the balance between the confidence-based relation with the RPO and the monitoring of RI compliance. Also, a close monitoring of these aspects would require more human resources, so for the moment, it is easier to have in place how to deal with a breach and leave to the RPO the responsibility of detecting and informing about it.
I would tell them to go step by step. Every country and organisation is in a different position and in different stages of development on these aspects.
I would also suggest to work closely with the RPOs, as the balance between the confidence-based relation with the RPO and the monitoring of RI compliance is really important. It is mandatory to work together to get the best on this subject.
Carla Carbonell Cortés
Project Manager at “la Caixa” Foundation